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How Coca-Cola has helped 6 million female entrepreneurs

Yahoo Finance’s Zack Guzman and Akiko Fujita discuss how Coca-Cola’s ‘5by20’ program with Bea Perez, The Coca-Cola Company Chief Communications, Sustainability and Strategic Partnerships Officer.

Video Transcript

AKIKO FUJITA: Let's turn our attention to Coca-Cola now and the company's goal here of filling half of its leadership positions with women in the next decade. They have really been pushing forward on that through a 5by20 initiative. That's the name of the program.

Let's bring in Bea Perez, the Coca-Cola Company Chief Communication, Sustainability, and Strategic Partnerships officer. Bea, it's good to talk to you. This is a program that you've had in place for, what, about 10 years now. Give us a progress report on where things stand.

BEA PEREZ: Sure. Thanks for having me here. And so-- so as you said, it's a comprehensive program. So we set the goal in 2010 to empower 5 million women by 2020. Today we've overachieved the goal, and we've achieved 6 million women by 2020. And that data has been assured through a third party, through E&Y, our accounting firm. And you can find that on the websites.

We're really excited because that's-- that's touching women all throughout the value chain. And 70% of those women are retailers. The rest make up in terms of recyclers farmers, artisans. And that's part of how we were touching women in the community, through the value chain. You also said very nicely-- thank you-- that we also have a goal to have 50% of our leadership is women. Today we're at 34% of the women in leadership and senior roles are there. We have 49% in the pipeline. So that shows us the next generation will take us there.

And if you look at our board of directors, we also have over 40% of our board is women. So while there's still a lot of progress to be made, we're very excited about where we are today.

ZACK GUZMAN: Talk to me about that 6 million number, though. When we think about helping female entrepreneurs, this isn't just in North America. This is around the globe. And it was interesting to kind of read about projects in this 5by20 program, including bikes being deployed in Africa and the distribution model there. I mean, talk to me about how different this was across the globe, continent by continent, and what you were trying to do.

BEA PEREZ: Absolutely. Well, it's a suite of tools to help to empower the women, whether it's access to capital, financial services, business training, or, like you said, physical tools as they think about distribution in their own businesses or how to access different goods and services. So it is different. One size does not fit all.

Let me just tell you a story of a lady named Regina in Brazil, for example. Regina is a recycler in Brazil. She was working hard in her community. And this-- I remember meeting her, actually, in 2011. And at the time, she employed about 10 or 11 people, and she'd been doing a phenomenal job. She also was recycling-- recycling a lot of the materials that are some of our products. And whatever couldn't be recycled, she was working with artisans.

Well, Regina, a few years later, when I went back to visit her, was employing over 700 people. So she went from about 10 women to employing over 700, really focusing in on her community and thriving in that community, being able to buy her own home, put her kids into better education systems. And she was reinvesting.

And I'm sure you know the numbers that when women earn a dollar, they typically reinvest about $0.90 of that dollar back to their community. So that's a phenomenal economic benefit as well, that these women are truly benefiting not just themselves, but also benefiting the societies in which they call home.

AKIKO FUJITA: Bea, as chief sustainability officer, you also oversee the company's environmental initiatives. And on that front, the track record, at least when you look at the headlines, doesn't seem positive. Coca-Cola named the worst plastic polluter for three years in a row here by at least one measure.

I know the company in the past has said you don't want to necessarily reduce your reliance on plastic. But is that something that Coca-Cola is willing to reconsider?

ZACK GUZMAN: We're working very hard to make progress in these goals, and we take full accountability that we have to do more and we have to do better. So within our World Without Waste initiative, which is mindful of the plastics that we're having in the marketplace to create the circular economy, we just hit a virgin plastic reduction target to complement the goals that we already had in place.

So you might know we had a goal to collect 100% of the materials we put out there, to increase the use of rPET in our products, so bottle to bottle, for example. And today, we have over 20 countries that are in 100% rPET. For example, in the US, we just launched our new packaging there, which is 100% rPET.

But we knew we could do more, which is why we added in the reduction of the virgin plastics target. And we know it's a journey and that we will continue to work very hard to get to these goals, just as we delivered on the 5by20 goal. And we're very intent to deliver to create the actions that drive the change and to do more. And we absolutely accept that accountability.

AKIKO FUJITA: Bea Perez, Coca-Cola's Chief Sustainability and Strategic Partnerships Officer. It's good to talk to you today.